1. Not Pleased.
I usually get to the quotes near the end of Ten Things, and I still, will, but the general tone I got out of head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s post-game press conference was really one of disappointment. Kingsbury reiterated time, and time again about how disappointed he was, about how the offense has to be better prepared and the defense cannot allow the opposing offense to go unmolested for an entire half. In the second sentence, Kingsbury said that he did a poor job of preparing the team because he said that he was awful. So this isn’t a situation where Kingsbury is throwing anyone under the bus, but this was not one of those games where I think Kingsbury is taking any sort of solace as a result of this game.
For me, personally, I felt pretty good about the game after the clock struck 0:00. I kept thinking that it could have been so much worse, so much worse and that sure is a defeatist attitude on my part and probably why I’m not the coach. Down to your third string quarterback and without one of your stud receivers, a guy that really sort of changes the math sometimes with his size and speed, and to be down by one score with a few minutes left in the game after really getting pantsed within the first 30 minutes isn’t the worst result overall. There were at least some positives that I can take away from the game, but Kingsbury obviously is not doing that in the least.
2. Duffey Giveth, and He Taketh Away. We were all wondering why Jett Duffey wasn’t the guy heading out of preseason practice and we all saw why fans wanted him and why Kingsbury chose him to be the third string quarterback. Duffey is, without question, absolutely tantalizing and can do things as the quarterback that I don’t think we’ve seen in the modern era? I don’t think my history of quarterbacks allows me to go past Mike Leach all that much, but you could maybe include Robert Hall in that group, but Hall never ran like Duffey did today (for a season, Hall’s best running season he ran for 278 yards). But Duffey also does things at quarterback that can absolutely break you, that pick-six to have fought to be within one one score was absolutely brutal. You couldn’t have kicked me harder because I thought Duffey was going to do it. Duffey had another open receiver, I think it was Antoine Wesley, but that wasn’t the read that Duffey made and the comeback attempt was over.
But Alan Bowman struggled before Duffey even got in the game, which is to say that maybe Kingsbury and Kevin Johns would have eventually figured out West Virginia, but Bowman had real issues with West Virginia’s blitz (Duffey did too, so I’m not leaving him out), but Bowman was only 9 of 20 for 123 yards, and Bowman really didn’t figure things out until the 4th drive where he found Antoine Wesley for 40 yards and a touchdown, but in the very next drive, Texas Tech drove down to the be 1st and goal and couldn’t punch it in, two running plays by Demarcus Felton were absolutely wasted and then Bowman threw an incomplete pass to De’Quan Bowman that didn’t go anywhere. I think between that 4th and 5th drive, Bowman had over 100 yards passing, so he was essentially ineffective for the first three drives when West Virginia posted up and scored 21 without really blinking.
Both Bowman and Duffey only had a shade over 6 yards per attempt, so they weren’t great in that respect. Duffey would finish 16 of 26, nearly 60%, for 172 yards a touchdown and 2 very costly interceptions.
Where Duffey shined though was his ability to run with the ball, creating an offensive look that most teams cannot game plan for, running 15 times for 101 yards (he had a sack that lost him 14 yards so his net is 86 yards), an unbelievable run on 4th down that put Texas Tech in the position to be within that one score. Here’s the problem, Kingsbury really isn’t a fan of Duffey running so much:
Q. How much do you think Duffey’s ability to run really opened up your offense?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I don’t think it did. Yeah, I don’t think it did. I thought he made some plays, but I thought we’ve got to hang in there and make some other plays through their design. But he kept competing, kept fighting. We just — the entire game we had no rhythm, couldn’t catch the ball, couldn’t protect as well as we would have liked, couldn’t run the ball very well. Just very poor on offense.
3. Terrible First Half Defense. I thought West Virginia was about to hang 60 on Texas Tech, at home. Through the first half, West Virginia had 278 passing yards, including 3 touchdowns, and 104 rushing yards, with 2 touchdowns. That’s 382 yards of offense in the first half alone and I’ll also add that the Mountaineers completed 6 of 8 third downs. How a defense does that is beyond me, but from my end of things, it looked as if the West Virginia receivers were just manhandling Adrian Frye and Demarcus Fields. There was just no answer other than holding them at the line of scrimmage and hoping for the best.
The second half was a completely different story, the Red Raiders second half defense gave up 107 total yards in the second half. That’s total yards. That doesn’t even compute, much less, make any sense at all. Last night after the game, I tried to think about what Texas Tech did to make such a difference in the second half, and I really didn’t notice anything within the front seven that looked any different other than the fact that it appeared that the team just tackled much better, and were finally able to wear down West Virginia’s offensive line, and Grier didn’t have as much time as he did in the first half to completely survey the field and pick apart the secondary.
4. So Many Drops. You can credit and/or blame the receivers for Bowman and Duffey not having great numbers offensively. The usually reliable Ja’Deion High and Antoine Wesley seemed to drop passes that they normally catch. I think Kingsbury said that it was 8 or 9 drops and I didn’t actually note the drops as I was tracking plays, except that I did type the words “drop” twice and “hands” as is “hit his hands” four times, so that’s at least six drops right there that I actually tracked. High had 1 of those, De’Quan had 1, Kesean Carter had 1, and Wesley had 3. I have really high, and probably unfair expectations for High and Wesley, probably because they’ve earned so much respect from me thus far this season, and I’ll expect them to bounce back and be better, but I sometimes expect perfection from them and they needed to be perfect yesterday.
5. Making a Change. I mentioned that one of the things that the Texas Tech defense did in the second half was get pressure on Grier and I thought a large part of that was Tony Jones and Eli Howard really finally getting to Grier along with an assortment of linebackers and safeties. I thought that Gibbs also would show blitz on a handful of plays with linebackers and safeties only to blitz one of them and pull back the rest. What I think Gibbs realized was that the traditional pass rush was not doing it in the first half. Grier had a perfectly clean pocket in the first half for the most part (I don’t remember a pressure or sack in the first half at all, so I’m going with that presumption and am likely wrong, but you’ll need to go with me for a bit). If that presumption is mostly true, then in the second half alone, Texas Tech had 2 sacks and 3 quarterback hurries alone. I also don’t know that the defense had a tackle for loss in the first half, and if that presumption is close to being true, then Texas Tech had 5 tackles for a loss in the second half. That’s 7 negative plays in one half alone.
Gibbs is going to have to make a decision about running out Kolin Hill at the rush end if he’s not going to really rush the quarterback. I know that this rush end will sometimes have some coverage and run stopping responsibility, but it is clear that in terms of creating havoc, Jones is just better at it and I’m somewhat scratching my head to figure out why that hasn’t happened. And this isn’t a one-game sort of realization, at least not for me. For almost all of last year and this year, it has appeared that Jones is better and he may have more risk reward, but I think I’ll take the risk because the option of not getting to the quarterback is not a good option.
And note that Gibbs is not hesitant to make lineup decisions, Desmon Smith is no longer a starting cornerback and I didn’t notice him much at all yesterday. Adrian Frye has replaced him and I think that’s the right move, but I think a decision is coming at that rush end spot as well.
6. Less Than Stellar Offensive Line. This was probably the worst that the offensive line has looked this year. West Virginia had 9 tackles for a loss and if you remove Duffey’s 86 yards rushing, you’re only left with 72 yards on 26 carries. That’s a 2.8 yards per rush average and that’s simply not going to get it done. And I personally don’t think that this is on the running backs, they didn’t look like they were running any less hard, they just had less room to run. West Virginia’s smaller, but faster defense was a problem for the offensive line and that’s typically been a strength for this team thus far. This is probably something to simply file away and when you’re thinking about games and how this team matches up against other teams. It’s not always going to be a net positive for your team on certain matchups and so this type of defense is probably one where the larger pulling linemen had a difficult time getting their hats on the smaller, but quicker defenders. That’s okay, it’s not the end of the world and now it’s up to Brandon Jones and Clay McGuire to figure out because TCU is up next and I think they’re probably most like West Virginia.
I do wonder how this West Virginia defense will do against a team like Oklahoma that has a very mobile quarterback and typically bigger offensive lineman than Texas Tech as well as guys that are physically very dominant. That may be the key component for that game.
7. Additional Defensive Adjustments. This is all pie-in-the-sky and I’m sure it won’t ever happen, but I think I’d like to see Desmon Smith, who has lost his starting cornerback position, to get a look at safety. I always thought this was his natural spot because he never possessed the speed at cornerback. That was always a given and the fact that he was able to play cornerback is a testament to him, but with the safeties somewhat struggling, except for Jah’Shawn Johnson, I think it may be time to think about seeing if he would work there. John Bonney got the start again along with Johnson. If Bonney can learn the nuances of what the safety does in a preseason, then I would think that Desmon could get the hang of the safety spot pretty quickly. I think that Desmon would maybe lend some more mobility and he has the size to be effective. I also wonder if there are other options at the nickelback, Douglas Coleman can look great at times, but then he can have 2 touchdowns scored all up on him. I’m sure that if there were better options, Gibbs would be doing it and I don’t think that Smith has the quickness to play the nickelback, otherwise I might suggest him as an option, but Coleman struggles at times and when it’s bad, it can be really bad. This looks way forward to next year, but when Johnson finally graduates, the safety spot next year is going to need to be really re-tooled. It makes me appreciate how good he’s been this year for Texas Tech.
8. Game Iconography.
Tortilla Tossin’ Player of the Game: I’m going to go with Dakota Allen for the game, he had 12 tackles for the game, 2 tackles for a loss, and a sack he shared with Jordyn Brooks. He missed an open field tackle in the first half and I think that may be the first open field tackle that he’s missed all year. When you can remember 1 missed tackle all year that’s probably saying something about how good he’s been.
Guns Up Offensive MVP: I don’t know that there’s an a clear winner for me here. You could say it’s Duffey, but he also had critical mistakes that cost the team the game. Same thing for maybe someone like Antoine Wesley who had costly drops, but also a couple of key catches that kept Texas Tech in this game. I’ll give it to Duffey, who had 258 yards of total offense, 1 passing touchdown and 1 rushing touchdown.
Sheriff Star Defensive MVP: After Allen, I’ll go with Eli Howard, who finally got his motor rolling in the second half. He, along with the rest of the defense, need to figure out how to make that happen more in the first half, but his pass rush was pretty critical in the second half comeback, and he finished with 3 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, and a sack.
9. Quotes. This is an unhappy Kingsbury. This is the first three opening questions and answers:
Q. What do you think changed between your team in the first half and the second half?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I’m not sure. You know, I think you want to avoid the letdown deal, but I did a poor job of preparing us because we were awful in that first half and they were really good. Came out and dominated us, and you get behind like that against a good team, you’re not going to stand a chance. So I don’t have an answer, but that’s on me for not having us prepared. I know that.
Q. Do you think your team showed resilience in the second half? Was that a gut-check by them or were there some adjustments?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, hopefully a little bit of both. They continued to play hard and fought back into the game, but didn’t make enough plays to finish it.
Q. Is there anything in particular that you attribute the slow start to?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I don’t know, but like I said, I should have had them more prepared and felt like we had a good week of practice, felt like we were focused, but we came out, gave up way too many big plays defensively, and then offensively I think we had nine or ten drops, which is the most I’ve ever seen. Not focused, not playing physical, just got dominated the entire first half, and you try to play catch-up with the No. 12 team in the country with that skill and that quarterback, you’re not going to beat them.
When asked about positives from this game, Kingsbury is at a loss for words and cited that the team didn’t quit, but that was it:
Q. What are some other positives you want to take out of this?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: That’s really it. You can’t take away — the way we played in that first half is as bad as you can play, and then I just thought they fought. They didn’t give up, which was — which you want to see, but it’s not good enough.
Kingsbury does not blame the fans for leaving at the first half:
Q. How big of a difference do you think the stadium being full in the first quarter made, as close as it was?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, I’m not sure. I would have left, too, if that was that poor of a performance and effort in the first half. I don’t blame anybody for leaving.
I do believe that Kingsbury is telling the truth here, that he desperately wants to get healthy:
Q. How do you go into this bye week with this loss now and become a better team?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, we’ve got to get healthy. We’ve got to get our starting running back going again full go, got to get T.J. Vasher back, got to see where the quarterbacks are at, and there’s some things. We’ve got to regroup and get healthy and then just play better. I thought defensively the second half we made some adjustments, played hard, but that first half we were just giving up — you give up 400 yards in a half and 35 points, it’s not going to beat anybody. We’ll keep working at it, continue to execute at a high level, higher level. That’s what we’ve got to do.
To his credit Kingsbury takes the blame for the two interceptions that Duffey threw, but I don’t know that these were really his fault:
Q. What you saw from Jett today, making a lot of plays and making stuff happen, but the two interceptions were pretty — does that kind of encapsulate what you’ve seen from him all along?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I’ll take that on me. Today I needed to give him stuff that he was comfortable with, and obviously those two plays were concepts that he didn’t have a good feel for, and I think he just kind of forced it in there, guessing where to go with the football based upon not getting enough reps at those plays. So I think that’s on me.
Kingsbury was also asked a weird question, so he’s essentially asked if he would be comfortable playing McLane Carter all year and I think the answer is yes, especially since he chose him as the starting quarterback:
Q. Would you be good with playing Carter all season? Obviously Alan has shown a lot and Jett has shown a lot. What went into that decision originally and how comfortable are you?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: You know, ball security, I think some leadership, handling your business, doing things right every day, McLane really stepped up in fall camp and he earned that job, and these other guys have done some things. Alan played well, and I thought he was doing okay today, had the one interception but had some bad drops early that hurt us offensively that guys weren’t helping him.
So we’ll see. We’ll evaluate everything, get everybody healthy and see where we’re at.
10. Final Thoughts & La Yapa.
- Another game where there were no special teams gaffes other than De’Quan Bowman catching that punt that had bounced when he was surrounded by West Virginia defenders. Had he mishandled that ball, it could have been disasterous, but disaster was averted. Hatfield made both of his field goals and kicked 6 of 7 into the end zone on kickoffs. Bowman had a nice kickoff return towards the end of the game. Dominic Panazzolo averaged about 41 yards a punt, which is just fine and he had 5 of them, so he had to kick it away a handful of times yesterday and when you don’t notice him, that’s a good thing.
- I thought that Jordyn Brooks had a good game, but I don’t think he’s had a dominating game this year and I wonder if/when that’s going to happen. Brooks finished with 6 tackles and that half of a sack with Allen. I’d like to see his presence felt a bit more during the game and I don’t know how that happens other than asserting himself a bit more.
- Another game without a turnover and if you haven’t noticed, “creating turnovers” is not a defensive plan. We talked really briefly before the season that the idea that being a team that creates turnovers is not necessarily something that normal defenses do, teams like Alabama do it because most of the time, teams are playing from behind and having to take more chances. For a team like Texas Tech, I know that the defense preaches it, but the fact is that these things just typically don’t happen schematically. You don’t plan for turnovers, they’re most of the time a product of some luck and timing, but not schematic. Texas Tech was right there despite being in the negative on the turnover front.
- Duffey’s two picks were really something that Bowman had not done, which is turn the ball over on your side of the field or give up a pick-six, something that seemed like it happened way too much last year.
- I’m guessing that Duffey gets a ton of reps in prepping for TCU. Texas Tech has a bye this weekend and then has TCU on Thursday night in Ft. Worth, but my guess is that Duffey gets the start.
- I tracked 94 total plays. Bowman was in for 34 of those plays Texas Tech ran 10 personnel 15 different times, 11 personnel 14 times, 20 personnel 4 times, and 12 personnel 1 time (I hope my math adds up!). That’s a good for 44% in 10 personnel, 11 personnel 41% of the time, and basically any formation other than 10 personnel 56% of the time.
- I tracked 60 snaps for Duffey and this was significantly different than what Bowman ran. Texas Tech ran 10 personnel 42 of those 60 plays, good for 70% of those snaps, 11 personnel 13 snaps, good for 22 of those snaps, and anything other than 10 personnel for 18 snaps, or 30% of the time. So Kingsbury and Johns leaned heavily to 10 personnel for Duffey’s snaps, and maybe that’s because Duffey’s legs creates more space and having an extra runner/protector isn’t something that Duffey needs? Or maybe 10 personnel is the easiest formation to run and with Duffey probably not getting first team snaps, this was the best formation for him? I’m not sure, but it was decidedly heavy on 10 personnel and in those few drives, they leaned heavily on 10 personnel.